Further To The Be Careful What You Wish For Chronicles

Yup.  I know this is the type specimen of a first-world problem, but oy, the kitchen renovation blues.

Demolition started on Monday.  Those guys are amazing:  a 7 a.m. we had a fully functional, intact (crappy) kitchen.  By eight?  Bam!

8:15 and the water line to the second floor exploded.  Around 8:45 we had the flood mostly under control, without too high a tide in the basement. And so it goes.

We’re going to be down a kitchen and the master bathroom upstairs for ~three months.  We’re treating the time as a camping trip.  That’s close to right, but what I forgot was what it was really like on those family car-camping trips way back when.

Let us simply say that lack of all mod cons did not reliably bring out the best in the four-kids-two-dogs-parents collective.  We’ll see.

But there are definitely rewards to the process (as we hope there will be at the end of the road…).  You get to play a grown-up version of the old Art Linkletter game:  pre-historic contractors did the darndest things.  Our house dates from 1920, which puts it right smack in the middle of the “what the hell should we do with this stuff called electricity” era.  As we found when we got the kitchen wall open:

Wire spaghetti


I guess all this adds up to a lunchtime open thread.

Update:  Here’s a link to the story of the bees that friend and commentor Aimai mentioned.  This is a house with its own particular take on the world, is all I’m saying.

And to the range of comments below: Yes, we are doing at least some rewiring.  No, we had no idea that this was lurking.  We have done some prior electrical work, and though we knew we had some knob-and-tube stuff in the house (and replaced some of it) we were not looking for this.

My favorite house repair story on this place (besides the bees)?   Our emergency disconnection of the live gas lines that had served the gas lighting system the house had in parallel to its electric lighting network.

The lights themselves were long gone, and usual practice when you take something like that out is to turn of the gas at the main, cut feed at the valve where it enters your house, and cap it properly with a big honker screw-mounted metal cap.  It’s a plumber’s job, not a big one, but definitely not something for the average home owner to mess around with.  What did some previous owner do?  Remove the gas light fixtures and stuff some plumber’s caulk in the pipe ends.

Think on that for a second.

We found this out as our electrician was wiring the kitchen ceiling for a track, and opened up the little circular plate in the ceiling where some fixture had previously lived.  He found two live naked wires and a gas line — out of which a plug of caulk promptly fell.  The gas spewed out, and our guy never moved so fast, throwing himself off the ladder and getting out of there, sounding the warning to everyone else.

There were, by the way, about five or six workers in the house, using power tools, sawing, hammering, plumbing. No chance of a stray spark there, oh no.  None at all.

Alls well that ends…everyone cleared out of the house. The fire dept. and the gas company came by. The line got cut and capped as it should have been, all done before nightfall.  But I still shudder sometimes, thinking about how this house could have literally blown up — likely taking much of the block with it — at more or less anytime over the last who knows how many decades.

Ah…adventures in home ownership.

146 replies
  1. 1
    AdamK says:

    Okay, you’ve got an autoplay ad on the front page that doesn’t fit its box, so you can’t even turn it off. This is getting out of hand. On one website after another, these noisy nuisances are interfering with my otherwise Buddha-like equanimity.

  2. 2
    aimai says:

    At least this time you didn’t find bees in the wall? I hope.

  3. 3
    The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik says:


    What’s worse about them is that they’re on a playlist. Once one ad ends, another begins almost immediately after, so it’s a goddamn russian roulette of refreshing.

    It’s getting more and more ridiculous, and I wonder if the ad providers really think this actually makes people want to sit down and look at these ads at all.

  4. 4
    The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik says:


    What’s worse about them is that they’re on a playlist. Once one ad ends, another begins almost immediately after, so it’s a goddamn russian rou-know-what of refreshing.

    It’s getting more and more ridiculous, and I wonder if the ad providers really think this actually makes people want to sit down and look at these ads at all.

    EDIT: Also, FYWP.

  5. 5
    Sherparick says:

    90 years on and the house has not burn down yet. And you say you don’t believe in miracles. I hope your budget included a electrician.

  6. 6
    MattF says:

    @AdamK: You can stop the autoplay plague (I’ve done it), but how it’s done depends on system and browser. FWIW, for OS X and Safari, the ‘ClickToPlugin’ extension does the trick:


    I fiddled around with the preferences and found a combination that works.

  7. 7
    Amir Khalid says:

    @The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik:
    When an obnoxious autoplay ad is so annoying that it sticks in your mind, that’s a feature. as far as the advertiser is concerned, and not a bug.

  8. 8
    Betty Cracker says:

    I’m assuming no actual current was running through that frightening tangle of wires? Dear god!

    My hubby and I demolished and rebuilt our kitchen about a year and a half ago? There are still some finishing touches that need to be done (fucking Ikea kick plates!), but we got the lion’s share finished pretty quickly because being without a kitchen is The Suck. As you’re learning.

    At least you have professionals handling the job so you won’t be icing fingers mashed by a 300-lb. ceramic farmhouse sink…

  9. 9

    I grew up in a house built in 1920. It was certainly interesting. Of course, now I’m in a house built in the late 1990s, and you know, that 1920 house wipes the floor with my new house. Oh, well.

    By the way, as I mentioned a couple of nights ago, The Iggy Dialogues was nominated for an award by a fellow blogger. Well, the fallout continues.

  10. 10
    Betty Cracker says:

    @AdamK: Flash Block worked for me.

  11. 11
    dmsilev says:

    The fusebox in the basement of my condo building (a 1923 building) looks like that. Definitely a “here be dragons” sort of thing that you don’t touch without a damn good reason. Fortunately for me, a previous owner of my unit redid the in-unit wiring so I have an actual breaker panel in my utility closet, but there are a couple of circuits which for reasons unknown bypass that and feed directly off the fusebox.

  12. 12
    Butch says:

    When I was still living in Colorado we hired a contractor to modernize the upstairs bathroom because I was afraid it would “take too long” if I did the job myself. Work started on this 5 by 8 bathroom on November 1 and was still under way the following July, at which point I fired the contractor and finished the work myself.

  13. 13
    Suffern ACE says:

    Hmmm. You should be more creative. Small space housing is the way of the future, so you could prepare while you are cramped.

    Here are some options I’ve come across recently.
    You could live on your bike.

    You could live under solar panels.

    You could try very upscale “camping”.

  14. 14
    Mike in NC says:

    Last week we hired an electrician with a helper to install some recessed ceiling lights in the kitchen. I couldn’t believe how quickly they finished the job. I’d still be struggling if I tried to do it. I like home improvement projects but when it comes to electricity, I leave it to the trained pros.

  15. 15
    raven says:

    Knob and tube with a GFI outlet! I never thought there would actually be a thread relevant to our ongoing renovation disaster but her it is! The short background version is this. We refinanced our house, I tore down half of a deck that I had built and we cut down some great trees in May of 2013. On the second day of construction we hit the sewer line that was wrongly marked on the city utility maps. We had both a building and a historic preservation permit so the city had ok’s the project. We dutifully reported the situation to the city thinking they would let us build some sort of protective structure over the sewer line. Nope, we were totally shut down while they explored the situation. After a few weeks (and a couple of calls by us to county commissioners) the city came back and, while denying any culpability, agreed to relocate the line. The catch was that they could not give us a timeline. Fourteen months later the sewer relocation design is done, the low bid of $290,000 was accepted and the mayor and commission should approve the gig next Tuesday night! It should take them about a month to run 300 ft of new sewer in a trench in the middle of the street that will be 18ft deep. After that we can begin the construction of our mater suite and, yes, renovation of our kitchen. We know that we are fortunate that this is going to be done at all and, after seeing the effort by the city and engineering firm on the design, we know that this is a major deal. It’s a first world problem and we know it’s nothing compared to what people are facing every day but it has been a pain in the ass.

  16. 16
    Svensker says:

    Thinking about Cole this morning and hoping the fact that we haven’t heard anything is good news and he’s all locked up and cozy.

    Wishing him well.

  17. 17
    dmsilev says:

    Also, speaking of construction and building things, today I bid farewell to perhaps the best teacher it’s ever been my pleasure to know. Our departmental machinist is retiring after ~50 years here. Watching him teach the basics of things like mills and lathes to an endless series of new graduate students (many of whom are just off the boat, so to speak, and seriously culture-shocked) has been an absolute joy. He’s getting a big party this afternoon, and then off to an incredibly well-deserved retirement.

  18. 18
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Those wires look like the bastard offspring of Medusa and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  19. 19
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    Impressive. Especially the part where your house has not burned down.

  20. 20

    I learned something this morning. All gov’t spending, even if the spending results in savings in other areas that eclipse the initial spend, are “ridiculous” and “wasteful”. And no amount of “proof” will make this not so. Also, I hate the children and want to saddle them with debt. Good day so far.

  21. 21

    @Svensker: Me, too.

    @Tom L – And damn, that wiring is scary. Was it old and unplugged or do you now want to tear open every wall and upgrade your wiring?

  22. 22
    Amir Khalid says:

    I saw The Fault In Our Stars today. I love this movie. Bittersweet teen romance, told with heart and humour and a clear eye. I heard people crying in the audience. It’s not the most original teen romance movie ever, but not a moment rang false. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, who played brother and sister in Divergent, make a completely convincing couple here. Laura Dern looks like she hasn’t aged at all since Jurassic Park.

  23. 23
    dogwood says:

    Did a bathroom update in January, that took 3 months and I’m starting the 4th month of a kitchen remodel. I like my contractor, but what I have realized is that the project will move along on schedule until the room becomes reasonably functional. Once that happens everything slows down to a near halt. Right now I’m sitting on the patio waiting on the contractor who claims he will start tiling the backsplash today. I’ll believe it when I see it.

  24. 24

    Oh my God. Dude, I have seen some bad wiring in my time but if I opened up a wall and saw that I would shit my pants. Not metaphorically.

  25. 25
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    Have been thinking exactly the same thing. And something odd, in that “isn’t it a small world?” way — I saw a while ago that a FB friend from a completely unrelated piece of my life (not someone I’ve ever met in person) gave wide sharing to Anne Laurie’s cat rescue bleg. I was so surprised to see the Balloon Juice logo on this person’s wall that I messaged her immediately, we exchanged BJ handles, and had a nice little chat about John and what a great site this is.

  26. 26

    Tom Levenson@top
    How is Tikka handling all this excitement?

  27. 27
    daverave says:

    Hey that looks like the wiring in my 1926 house including the plaster furring and redwood framing. (BTW, that photo looks like it needs to be rotated 90 degrees clockwise.) I’m a big believer in the “test-of-time” theory of construction adequacy; i.e., if it hasn’t failed after 90 years, it’s probably not going to fail any time soon.

  28. 28
    burnspbesq says:


    It’s a shame that San Diego can’t trade its wingnut population to Dallas for a combination of cash and draft choices.

  29. 29
    Mandalay says:

    If there is a spat between the CIA and Dianne Feinstein it’s hard to pick who I most want to lose. As it turns out, the CIA was the loser:

    An internal investigation by the Central Intelligence Agency has found that its officers improperly penetrated a computer network used by the Senate Intelligence Committee in preparing its report on the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation program.

    In a statement issued Thursday morning, a C.I.A. spokesman said that agency’s inspector general had concluded that C.I.A. officers had acted inappropriately by gaining access to the computers.

    The statement said that John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, had apologized to the two senior members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and that he would set up an internal accountability board to review the matter. The board will be led by former Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana.

    Evan Fucking Bayh? Jesus.

  30. 30
    Suffern ACE says:

    I’m not certain if those are actually electric wires. They look structural. They coul be what has been holding your house together.

  31. 31

    @Svensker: I imagine that we’d know if he hadn’t been checked into rehab. He’d be here and on Twitter ranting about it non-stop (and justifiably so).

  32. 32

    @Svensker: I imagine that we’d know if he hadn’t been checked into rehab. He’d be here and on Twitter ranting about it non-stop (and justifiably so).

  33. 33
    Amir Khalid says:

    Will the rewiring — of the whole house, I presume, since things must be like that all over — add a great deal to your renovation costs?

  34. 34
    Peej says:

    Gee, I must be lucky. My kitchen and half bath remodel only took 3 weeks to do. And that included 2 days extra due to a mix up in the kitchen cabinets which necessitated them raising the soffit that covered the entire kitchen 6 inches. Of course, it helps that there was no rewriting and minimal plumbing involved…and that it’s a small kitchen.

  35. 35
    Mandalay says:


    Okay, you’ve got an autoplay ad on the front page that doesn’t fit its box, so you can’t even turn it off.

    You don’t need to turn it off. You need to make it never be there in the first place. Cole won’t like it, but get an adblocker. Your life will be better immediately.

    I am amazed at how many people are willing to allow ads to infest their screen when they can prevent it ever happening with a few clicks of the mouse and a couple of minutes of effort.

  36. 36

    @burnspbesq: Let’s just set them up in a reserve in Mojave desert like we do with poppies

  37. 37
    Helen says:

    @Karen in GA: Wow. What a difference a haircut makes!

  38. 38
    burnspbesq says:


    I think it’s important for San Diego County to build up a big honkin’ cash reserve. Cuz you just know that when it comes time to mothball San Onofre, SCE and Sempra are going to renege and file Chapter 11.

  39. 39
  40. 40
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Mandalay: Jesus, Evan Fucking Bayh, huh? Isn’t he busy peddling influence and redirecting taxpayer dollars to corporate clients these days? I loathe that piece of shit. As to the internal investigation, how’s about some external accountability for those shit-hooks? Like summary dismissal and/or jail time?

  41. 41
    Long Tooth says:

    “Let us simply say that lack of all mod cons did not reliably bring out the best in the four-kids-two-dogs-parents collective”.

    That’s Pulitzer caliber funny. Please keep the updates coming.

  42. 42
    gogol's wife says:


    I’ll pass that on to my husband, who thinks our 1927 house is going to fall down.

    Now we’re having a garage built. It was going to be “3 weeks, start to finish.” We’re at the end of week 3, and we have a floor (exactly what we had at the end of week 2, when they disappeared).

  43. 43

    @burnspbesq: Maybe we can sell the Chargers to LA to pay that off

  44. 44

    @Helen: Yep. I thought he was some kind of Bichon-something mix. He still needed vaccinations and neutering and wasn’t ready to leave the rescue at that point. When they told me I could pick him up, they said, “By the way, we also had him groomed.” I thought, oh, that’s nice of them to bathe and brush him — but then I got there and out comes this mini schnauzer, with a short-clipped coat and a mustache. Not what I was expecting at all; I hadn’t even done any research on the breed. Turns out he’s the greatest dog in the universe, so it worked out well.

  45. 45
    Kristine says:

    @MattF: Thank you so much for that link!

  46. 46
    Spinoza Is My Co-pilot says:


    I’m a big believer in the “test-of-time” theory of construction adequacy; i.e., if it hasn’t failed after 90 years, it’s probably not going to fail any time soon.

    You are quite right about that. However, as the commercial and industrial electrical license holder for my company, that picture still gives me the willies (or whatever the kids are calling that these days).

    Had all three bathrooms and the kitchen fully remodeled at my place a few years ago (including granite countertops — yes, I am an affluent suburbanite, though I started as poor working class). Only took a little over two months, and the bathrooms were done (mostly) sequentially so we always had one available.

    I knew a good GC in the commercial market I work in and they did a better job than most residential contractors would have. It’s sort of like the difference between union and non-union specialty building trades such as mechanical and electrical. Union probably a bit pricier but always better.

    We did have one flooding instance ourselves during the bathroom remodeling, though, when a shutoff valve connection failed under an upstairs sink (at, of course, like 4am). Fortunately, I have always been a light sleeper so I awoke to the sound of a large amount of water running and got to the outside shutoff before it was too bad.

    Did something similar as a lad when my family’s house caught on fire (from some fuse-box issue in the basement) in the wee hours. Awoke to smelling smoke and got my mom, dad, and 5 younger siblings up and out of the house before anyone was hurt. House burned pretty good, though, and I lost all my vinyl record albums (couple hundred) including original Doors and Beatles and Pink Floyd and King Crimson and so on that I had bought when they first came out in the 60s and early 70s (my biggest loss — my parents had much more, of course).

    Those are the upsides of a lifetime of never getting a full night’s sleep (I sleep so light that I have awakened 3 or 4 times a night pretty much my entire life).

  47. 47
    D58826 says:

    If the news of the REAL world wasn’t depressing enough there is this tidbit :

    Kim Kardashian is famous for doing nothing. Now she’s got a game that’s pulling in $700,000 a day where players have to do, well, nothing.

    The sooner that meteor shows up the better

  48. 48
    Soprano2 says:

    We remodeled our kitchen from the studs out in the early 2000’s, we were without a kitchen sink for 4 years. I don’t recommend it. Being without for 3 months sounds like a luxury to me, of course we don’t have any children. We did most of the work ourselves, my husband even rewired our kitchen and bathroom. So far everything is OK so I guess he did a good job. That wiring looks like stuff I saw in my grandma’s house, it was built in 1921. Some of our old wiring looked like that too before we changed it.

  49. 49
    burnspbesq says:


    LA already has two professional football teams: the Spoiled Children and the Common Little Adults.

    What San Diego needs to do, pro sports-wise, is figure out how to lure Xolos across the border. A Liga MX team in SoCal would be a massive draw.

  50. 50
    Shana says:

    We started our kitchen addition/remodel on January 7th. It was supposed to take 11 weeks. Granted the unusually cold January and February delayed the concrete block foundation/storage room under the kitchen addition part, but once our weekly payments started to vastly outstrip the contractor’s progress we started pushing back on payments until they’d caught up. This resulted in the inevitable slow down in work by them. At this point we’ve paid for about 60% of the project with only about 40% of the work done. They’re still working on the deck, we don’t have windows installed in the addition, they put in the wrong size skylights and we’re looking at the very real possibility that they’ll file for bankruptcy and leave us in the lurch. We’ve already had a meeting with our lawyer (coworker of hubby) and their lawyer and worked out a payment plan based on work finished but it’s been an additional 2 1/2 months and virtually no progress. We’ve started looking for a contractor to finish the work but of course everyone’s busy now and wouldn’t be able to get to us for ages. At least they haven’t torn out the existing kitchen but it looks like this 11 week project will end up taking a year. Anyone have a recommendation for a good contractor in Northern Virginia?

  51. 51
    Another Holocene Human (now with new computer) says:

    @The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik: I’m trying to figure out why Chrome wants to tell you which tab is making noise but won’t let you mute the tab.

  52. 52
    low-tech cyclist says:


    90 years on and the house has not burn down yet. And you say you don’t believe in miracles. I hope your budget included a electrician.

    They’re waiting for the electrician. Or someone like him.

  53. 53
    Another Holocene Human (now with new computer) says:

    @burnspbesq: warm water port. never happen.

  54. 54
    raven says:

    @Spinoza Is My Co-pilot: We had a fitting blow off of out clawfoot and our doggie woke us up!

  55. 55
    Another Holocene Human (now with new computer) says:


    I am amazed at how many people are willing to allow ads to infest their screen when they can prevent it ever happening with a few clicks of the mouse and a couple of minutes of effort.

    It’s a way to support the blog?

    The popups and the autoplay just go too far, I think that’s the issue.

    I have a history of clicking on text only ads, actually. The problem these days is that AdWords and the other providers mostly serve up total shit to me these days. Look, dumbasses, something is wrong with your algo….

  56. 56
    Another Holocene Human (now with new computer) says:

    @Betty Cracker: Why are all these sons of politicians utter narcissists? Parents never home/got away with too much shit as snot-nosed brats? Saw lobbyists/other pols kissing their parent’s ass, thought that was normal and sincere and came to expect the same treatment? Didn’t understand like parents with normal upbringing that it’s just shit, lubricating grease?

  57. 57
    catclub says:

    @D58826: More power to her. You and I may not like her, but she obviously does draw in the eyeballs that advertisers want.

    I remember the line, I think from Paper Moon, in which someone says it is horrible that Babe Ruth is being paid more than the President.

    The response: “He had a better year.”

    Unique celebrities are unique, and are worth their paychecks.

  58. 58
    Betty Cracker says:

    @raven: We had a high pressure dishwasher line blow and flood our house before our kitchen reno. Also in the middle of the night, when else? God, what a mess. It finally lit the fire under our asses to rip out the hideous carpet and replace it with fake wood flooring, though.

  59. 59
    Another Holocene Human (now with new computer) says:

    @D58826: Kim Kardashian is a famous courtesan. She worked hard for that money, if you know what I mean. It was not for nothing. Get it right.

    Courtesans seemed so alien to me as a child, but now that we’re approaching historical GINI index levels all the old ways are returning.

  60. 60
    Betty Cracker says:

    @catclub: By that standard, “Dumb and Dumber III, the Dumbening” is a better movie than “Twelve Years a Slave.” It made more money.

  61. 61
    catclub says:

    @Another Holocene Human (now with new computer): The interesting thing is that Democrats have mostly had better luck raising responsible children, and having conventional, long-lasting marriages, than Republicans.
    Does anyone think Darryl Issa’s kids will grow up to be productive and responsible? (if we are lucky, he has none)

  62. 62
    Seanly says:

    My wife & I would like to redo our 1979 kitchen. It’s a huge space – over 20′ x 20′ (includes the dining area). Drop ceiling over the kitchen proper that used to have recessed lights. Not enough cabinets or counter space plus the cabinets are starting to fall apart. The slick floor tiles (dogs are funny on that) are right up to the threshold of the sliding glass door so I think they might be the 3rd or 4th flooring.

    I hope that the dropped ceiling is just a 6″ drop framed up with small members & not open to the insulation above. The now open recess for the old fluorescent tubes is at the same level as the other half of the ceiling which makes me think that there’s probably unfinished drywall straight across. I need to drill a hole & take a look…

    My wife & I figure we can do most of the work ourselves. Order cabinets online, assemble & hang them ourselves (I’m a big nut for getting things level), and let pros do the electrical, plumbing and countertop install. We’ll leave sink in the same spot, move stove over a bit (considered that when we got the gas line installed), rearrangement the U shape in a longer legged L with an island. Only sticking point is that my wife would like to add an exterior door to the side yard where she wants to garden in the future.

    We’re thinking that we might use a kitchen designer to help us develop a plan so we end up with a good kitchen.

    When my mother heard how much my wife wanted to change in the house she asked why we don’t just move to a new place…

  63. 63
    Another Holocene Human (now with new computer) says:

    @catclub: While I despise the constant tabloid headlines and Kris Jenner disgusts me, I will admit that I do better at the gym with “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” on than any other program. MSNBC will have me slowing down to pay attention to the guests, and don’t get me started on sports … I quit my last treadmill session after 2 and a half minutes because the Sox were getting blown out by Toronto. I was so disgusted I blew the gym to walk outside, which of course was like 80 degrees and 97% humidity in the dark and I couldn’t keep it up for long. So I must say that Kim Kardashian and E! are good for my health. I think the secret is that the show is completely brainless and I’m completely uninvested in what happens, leaving more blood flow for the rest of my body.

  64. 64
    Tom Levenson says:

    @low-tech cyclist: I believe I’ve mentioned that David Ossman (Porgy Tirebiter) was my radio teacher. Yes, I am a lucky guy.

  65. 65
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Seanly: I can give thumbs up to working with a designer. My wife is a former pro chef and an Emmy award winning production designer, and we have a very clear idea of how we want our kitchen to work. And each of the two times we’ve done a kitchen (20+ years ago and now) we’ve worked with a designer to refine our ideas into something better than we came up with ourselves.

    The only thing is that you have to work with someone who will actually listen to you when you tell them how you — not “everyone” — work in your kitchen.

  66. 66
    raven says:

    @Seanly: Can’t you just pop a tile on the dropped ceiling to see what’s what?

  67. 67
    daverave says:

    @Another Holocene Human (now with new computer):

    This is the only site that I don’t have ad-blocked. You’re welcome, John ;-)

  68. 68
    raven says:

    @Tom Levenson: Mt wife and our builder/designer worked together. I signed refi papers and did demolition.

  69. 69
    catclub says:

    @Betty Cracker: I just looked them up:
    12 Years a Slave: Production cost $12M box office $178M

    Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd
    production cost $30M box office $26M

    But even so, if D and D*er had made more money, based on its stars bringing people into the seats,
    then were worth their paychecks.

  70. 70

    @D58826: She’s not hurting anyone with her stupid game so I don’t know, can’t get that upset. I wish she were taxed more though.

    Aside (not directing this at you, just making a general statement)- can we talk about Kanye West hatred? Kanye West is awesome. People like him are what make America great

  71. 71
    daverave says:

    @gogol’s wife:

    Tell him that a licensed architect told you about that test of time thing ;-)

  72. 72
    Betty Cracker says:

    @catclub: Do you also think it makes sense for the Walmart heirs’ personal wealth to equal the bottom 40% of Americans’ combined wealth? After all, they bring people into their shitty stores by the millions!

  73. 73
    catclub says:


    She’s not hurting anyone with her stupid game so I don’t know, can’t get that upset. I wish she were taxed more though.

    She, like Lebron James, is taxed at the max rate – 43% marginal. Nevermind Mitt Romney or Warren Buffett having a higher income and being taxed at less than half that rate.

    Those workers have bad taste.

  74. 74
    catclub says:

    @Betty Cracker: No, they do not bring in the customers. Just as the owners of professional sports teams do not bring in the fans. It is the players who do, and who should be getting larger shares of the take.

  75. 75
    pamelabrown53 says:

    @dmsilev: Damn! I had this preconceived notion that old buildings converted to condos were torn down to the studs and updated for modernity according to code. This makes me sad because I love the character of old buildings yet as I approach “little old lady” status, I worry that it’s another dream to be axed.

  76. 76
    Betty Cracker says:

    @catclub: Now you’re splitting hairs. It’s their mega-mart empire. They buy the politicians and pay the consultants to squeeze every penny of profit out of peddling cheap Chinese goods. They’re good at what they do. If you’re a free market absolutist on the Kardashians, who leveraged their vast wealth to shoe-horn their way into public consciousness, I don’t see how you can turn around and deny the Wally World dauphins their due.

  77. 77
    Anoniminous says:

    I’ve remodeled five houses. Which is how I derived:

    Law of Time Allocation for Home Remodeling: the first 90% takes 90% of the time, the last 10% takes the other 90%.

  78. 78
    Another Holocene Human (now with new computer) says:

    @SatanicPanic: if a white guy were as conceited as Kanye West with half the talent, white people would be eating it up

    Shit, white American loved Milli Vanilli, lolol. Not to mention Gallagher.

  79. 79
    dmsilev says:

    @pamelabrown53: Well, the condo conversion was in (I think) 1973, so maybe the rules were different. There’s a lot of infrastructure stuff in the complex which is original (when I was getting my DSL line hooked up, the tech from AT&T was oohing and aahing at the the original wiring and breakout box); over the years, things like the boilers and so forth have been replaced.

    Inside the units, the original wood detailing and built-in furniture is mostly still there, which is great because it’s stuff that would cost an arm, a leg, and a foot if you tried to build it today.

  80. 80
    dmsilev says:

    @Anoniminous: The rule of thumb I’ve always used is “Take your time estimate, double it, and then switch to then next highest unit”. 2 weeks becomes 4 months…

  81. 81
    Another Holocene Human (now with new computer) says:

    @Betty Cracker: Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

  82. 82
    pamelabrown53 says:

    @raven: I’m glad you were able to get your “first world problem” resolved. We had our own FWP when out of nowhere the water company showed up ready to dig up and destroy my front yard for a new fire hydrant.

    Now before any of you BJers get huffy, this was not a NIMBY situation: 20 feet on one side and 40 feet on the other and it’s an easement for a preserve. Well, we had to pay for both an attorney and movement of the fire hydrant. Where was it moved? The 40 foot side.

    Just wondering. Could small government = small minds?!

  83. 83
    Paul in KY says:

    @CONGRATULATIONS!: I’d be scared & immediately want to turn off all the electricity in house.

  84. 84
    catclub says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    Kardashians, who leveraged their vast wealth to shoe-horn their way into public consciousness

    I did not know that. How vast are we talking, here?
    Now the Koch brothers, maybe.

    I suspect the Kardashians have much more eye appeal than the Koch brothers.

  85. 85

    @Another Holocene Human (now with new computer): Shit, Tom Cruise was well liked until everyone found out about his religion.

  86. 86
    raven says:

    @pamelabrown53: Thanks, it will be resolved when the addition is done!

  87. 87
    Lolis says:

    I am totally jealous of you guys who can afford to remodel. I bought a bare bones affordable home last November and quickly spent what little money I had painting most of it so it wasn’t the dreadful beige color my builder forced on me.

  88. 88


    I’m a big believer in the “test-of-time” theory of construction adequacy; i.e., if it hasn’t failed after 90 years, it’s probably not going to fail any time soon.

    Maybe not fall down, but I’m sure the insurance company will demand that antique knob-and-tube wiring be replaced, at least in the kitchen. That stuff is almost as big a fire hazard as the old gas lighting Tom mentioned, and it shouldn’t be too expensive to rewire if the walls have been opened.

  89. 89
    Trollhattan says:

    Wow, that wad of wires is mind-boggling. Did they run a bunch of circuits to nowhere from that point in anticipation of using them later?

    Could write a small book on adventures with our house, which per the county was built in 1935 but we found out just a few years back, through some excellent digging by a neighbor, it was built no later than 1928 or 9 and served as one of the model homes for a new subdivision. We even have a couple of advertisements showing the house. Hard to say what might have occurred around that time that might have caused a home to sit, empty, for seven years before being sold….

    The time-shift explained a lot of oddities re. construction that didn’t reflect the state of the industry in the mid-30s. The most horrific discovery was, contrary to the “educated” consensus, when PG&E rolled through the neighborhood selling folks on converting their oil furnaces to gas, they did not in fact remove the oil tanks. In our case, the tank was hidden away under a concrete slab with the pipes simply cut, back-filled with water, with a nice oil layer on top. Luckily it had not rusted completely through so we were able to have it pumped by a disposal service, then dug and hauled by party #2, at which point the landscape contractor returned to the job, hands clapped over his eyes and uttering, “I see nothing, I see nothing…”

  90. 90
    Mnemosyne says:


    Speaking of raising your kids right, I caught this story on NPR about Ted Stanley’s massive donation to fund research into schizophrenia. One of the reasons Stanley became interested is because his son, Jonathan, is bipolar. I really liked this quote from Jonathan Stanley:

    And a lot of rich families – a good chunk of this huge amount of money that’s going to Broad – would’ve ended up in my bank account. All I can say is my family got it right.

  91. 91
    Trollhattan says:

    @Betty Cracker:
    How has the thread gone this long without Colbert’s take on the Kardashian game?

  92. 92
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Seanly: Because you won’t find what you want, even in a new place? You like the neighborhood and you like the rest of the house. And house hunting is a PITA.

  93. 93
    Paul in KY says:

    @catclub: The Babe himself quipped that once back in the day when he was asked about that.

  94. 94
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    I’m pretty sure the Wal-Mart heirs have never done a day of work in their life. At best, they’ve hired lawyers and accountants to do all of that stuff for them while they just sign the checks.

    Showing your tits in public and being on a reality TV show isn’t a lot of work, but it’s more than the Wal-Mart heirs have ever done.

  95. 95
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Another Holocene Human (now with new computer): I can hate both, thanks.

  96. 96
    Seanly says:


    I realized as I was writing it that dropped ceiling isn’t the right term. It’s not a drop panel ceiling (we wouldn’t have a bought a house with that in main living areas). The ceiling over the dining half is at 8′ height then it is framed to drop down to 7′-6″ over the kitchen half but goes back to the 8′ within the old fluorescent light bay.

  97. 97
    joel hanes says:


    Cole won’t like it, but get an adblocker.

    I assuage my terrible guilt (from always using both adblock+ and noscript) by contributing to the fundraisers and hitting [Donate] buttons with some regularity.

    The only disadvantage is that I give up the ability to suck a few pennies out of advertisers I loathe by clicking on their ads ten or twenty times.

  98. 98
    burnspbesq says:


    Mr. West is very good at something. I just don’t think music is that thing.

  99. 99
    joel hanes says:

    @low-tech cyclist:

    They’re waiting for the electrician. Or someone like him.

    Let’s stand him on his head!

    Oh. He’s no fun … he fell right over.

  100. 100

    @burnspbesq: You’re speaking a language I don’t understand

  101. 101
    joel hanes says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    David Ossman (Porgy Tirebiter) was my radio teacher.

    He’s a student like you.

  102. 102
    PurpleGirl says:

    When I got my first apartment, we found that the wiring for wall sconces hadn’t been probably closed. My father (an electrician) capped the wires, folded them back into the wall and plastered the wall. Also, previous tenants had used zip wire to make more outlets and it just plugged into one of the outlets already there. My brother (also an electrician) got me some wall wire covering stuff (forget the proper name) and installed a bunch of outlets by tapping off the same one the zip wire had been plugged into, but at least the connections were up to code and covered. We did the same thing in the bathroom and kitchen to get switches for the overhead lights. At the time my rent was on the low side so I didn’t mind doing the (low-level) upgrades.

  103. 103
    Iowa Old Lady says:

    Good lord. It looks like Ted Cruz talked the House into adjourning without passing a border bill. Or maybe not. They seem to be scrambling.

  104. 104
    Tehanu says:

    @Tom Levenson:
    David Ossman, really? Wow. Can you repeat whatever you said before about how he was your teacher, or supply a link? btw he’s still working in radio, I believe, up in Washington State.

  105. 105
    Seanly says:


    Yeah, we’re not moving. I think my mom heard my wife rattled off $400,000 worth of things she wanted to do to a $170,000 house when she made the comment. We do need new flooring throughout, a kitchen remodel (though we’d keep the new stove & fridge) and probably new siding on 3/4 of the exterior (only the front has real wood siding, rest is pressboard crap). But there is the question of if we should put a lot of money into updating the house.

  106. 106
    JPL says:

    Tom, the electrical wiring is nothing compared to the gas line story. I’m pleased that you didn’t stop to take a picture. The house that i was raised in was a turn of the century Victorian, so I’m familiar with the wiring.

  107. 107
    Betty Cracker says:

    @SatanicPanic: I agree with President Obama’s assessment of Mr. West.

  108. 108
    Betty Cracker says:

    Since we’re on the topic of home renovation, what, aside from moving, do y’all recommend for getting rid of horrid 1970s popcorn ceilings? I’ve read about the work involved in scraping them off. Nope. I’ve also heard there are tiles you can stick over them. Anyone know anything about this.

  109. 109
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Iowa Old Lady:
    I get the impression that Ted’s route to power runs over as many Republicans in power as he can manage, starting with Böhner.

  110. 110
    Belafon says:

    @Betty Cracker: 1970s style popcorn ceilings are still being installed in new houses. It’s cheap acoustics. The problem I have is my wife burnt something once and the smoke left a nice mark across a section in my house.

  111. 111
    Iowa Old Lady says:

    @Amir Khalid: I’m just speechless at Cruz’s nerve (or as Michele Bachmann would say, his shootspah) and Boehner’s incompetence.

  112. 112

    @Betty Cracker: That’s not inconsistent with what I admire about him

  113. 113

    @Lolis: I’m sad. Most of my house is still dreadful beige, and it’s been 15 years. Mad fear of committing to a color. On one hand, I like warm colors. On the other hand, lighter colors make the space feel more open, and I like open.

    Plus split-foyer, meaning a two-story-high wall in the entrance. Plus a cathedral ceiling in the living room. And my fear of heights.

  114. 114
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Belafon: They’re still using popcorn? Damn. I hadn’t noticed that in a modern house. Mine was built during the Carter administration. I don’t like the way it looks, but it’s not a top priority to get rid of it. The mister thinks we have one more move left in us, so I wouldn’t want to sink a bunch of money into something like that.

  115. 115
    MomSense says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    I scraped and then skim coated (a million coats) popcorn ceilings that someone had put in between the beams in a 1790s farmhouse. It is neck breaking work. You could probably also put new dry wall up over it, but it would have been impossible for us to fit drywall between those beams as they were uneven and at irregular intervals.

    I was younger then and my body was more forgiving.

  116. 116
    Trollhattan says:

    @Betty Cracker: Know a few folks who’ve tackled the popcorn removal, and it’s messy and labor-intensive. (Get on ladder, spray, soak, and scrape. Repeat ad nauseam). Don’t know anyone who just covered it–doubtless preferring to not have ceiling tile (memories of every classroom, ever) and also, too, to get the junk out of the house for good.

    Might need to have it evaluate for asbestos content, depending on the year the house was built.

  117. 117
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Karen in GA: If you like color but want the spacious feeling, how about painting just one wall in some other bold, bright, whatever, color. In my current apartment I didn’t know what colors I wanted so I didn’t paint when I moved in 15 years ago. In my other apartment, I had some painting done — one wall was done in a medium red ochre with the other 3 walls a sandy shade. I used wallpaper in the bathroom.

  118. 118
    Betty Cracker says:

    @SatanicPanic: In the brief moments of interviews with West I’ve seen (while frantically searching for the remote), he comes off as a petulant, arrogant asshole. But I suspect it’s mostly an act anyway, and clearly cultivating that persona works for him. I have no opinion of his musical talent since his genre isn’t my cup of tea, but people who like that sort of thing say he’s good, and I have no reason to doubt it.

  119. 119
    shelley says:

    but what I forgot was what it was really like on those family car-camping trips way back when.

    That’s what we told each other when we were without power for 5 days after Hurricane Sandy. ‘It’s just like camping.’ We forgot, when you’re camping, you can always pack up and go back home when it starts to pall.

  120. 120
    raven says:

    @Seanly: Our rental had the drop panel and paneling over plaster. We took it all down and restored it along with the hardwood floors. Than and new wiring and HVAC and we only charge $700 a month (it’s just 800 sq fet but it has a fenced in yard and the greatest landlord in history!)

  121. 121
    raven says:

    @shelley: My builder shut off his power for a month to see what it was like!

  122. 122


    one wall was done in a medium red ochre with the other 3 walls a sandy shade.

    Oooh. That could work. And that’s the kind of color scheme I’m thinking of!

    This comment thread may prove to be expensive.

  123. 123
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Iowa Old Lady:

    How does Ted Cruz get any say whatsoever about anything on the House side?

  124. 124
    Belafon says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: Because, from the Republican point of view, Cruz is standing up to the president, and therefore has more power. It doesn’t matter to them that Cruz is destroying the party, they just like his bluster. Weeping Cheeto, on the other hand, is weak.

  125. 125
    Amir Khalid says:

    Böhner is such a weak Speaker that I could probably bully him from here in KL.That must help.

  126. 126
    shelley says:

    Good lord. It looks like Ted Cruz talked the House into adjourning without passing a border bill

    You don’t expect them to ruin their perfect score of doing absolutely nothing?

  127. 127
    Iowa Old Lady says:

    @shelley: I did! I’m clearly losing my grip on Congressional reality.

    ETA: I don’t know how the sane ones get up and go to work every day.

  128. 128

    @Betty Cracker: I think he’s just sticking it to the media. He’s obviously pretty stuck on himself, but if you hear interviews with him in rap media he’s not quite like that. I don’t mind that he’s into himself, he’s a great musician with a deep catalog so I cut him some slack. That being said, his fashion thing doesn’t make sense to me.

  129. 129
    scav says:

    @Karen in GA: Not for you, but maybe for others, my cousins did something similar in their place only the color differences were subtle. Almost gave the illusion of permanent shadows or reflected light through trees that didn’t exist. Made things livelier almost subconsciously. Yes, these were the cousins that did’t have to scrimp. But they did the whole place in a fell blow. Attacking a single wall with a roller could be managed for the determined and fearless.

  130. 130
    geg6 says:

    That’s nothing. My ex and I bought a house originally built in 1905. Only had three owners up until we bought it. It was originally the “summer cottage” of one of the local steel barons. Beautiful place and, when first built, must have had a fantastic view of the Beaver River and the hills surrounding. We were in love with the place but knew it needed a lot of updating. We bought it from the former county DA, who used to have it on the local home tour. After bringing up his kids and marrying them off, the wife passed away and he ended up with Altzheimer’s and didn’t live in the house for at least a decade before passing away and we bought it from his estate for a song.

    Well. We knew there was a lot of knob and tube because of the home inspection and we got a cut on the closing costs to cover the cost of updating the electric. What we didn’t know until we started gutting the place was that not only was all of the electric still knob and tube, but the former DA had “updated” the electric by splicing in extension cords. Some of the outlets actually had the recepticle ends of the extension cords hanging out of the outlets. Our electrician friend who was doing the majority of the work (we were his helpers and that’s why I now know more about stringing electric wiring through a house than I ever wanted to know) marveled every day he worked on it that the DA and his family hadn’t burned up in their sleep some time back in the fifties or sixties. We bought the place in 1991. He said the place should have burned down long ago. So instead of just gutting the attic (where we built a family room with a bar), kitchen and bathroom, we ended up gutting the entire three stories and just starting fresh. A remodel that we had planned to last a year ended up a five year project. The place is gorgeous now. Too bad the ex kept it for himself.

  131. 131
    Bill Arnold says:


    The rule of thumb I’ve always used is “Take your time estimate, double it, and then switch to then next highest unit”. 2 weeks becomes 4 months…

    I use “Take the worst-case time estimate, and double it”.

  132. 132
    Jamey says:

    “I call the big one, ‘Bitey!'”

  133. 133
    cckids says:

    The part of Tom’s story that I don’t quite get (and I don’t think has been addressed) is this:

    8:15 and the water line to the second floor exploded.

    Was it cut/broken? Cursed? Inquiring minds want to know!!

  134. 134
    cmorenc says:

    At the previous house we lived in, a 1967 suburban tract house in Raleigh, NC (we were its second owners), we had good reason to suspect that much of the original electrical contractor’s work was done on a Friday, due to some sloppy features characteristically typical of workers in a rush to finish and go home. For starters, some of the breaker labels on the electrical panel box did NOT at all match what they said they did – and so, while it is never wise to forego actually testing whether any given wires are “live” or not before starting any work on them, in the case of this house it was russian-roulette level suicidal to not do so. For example, on the living room walls there were six outlets, but only five of them were controlled by the breaker marked “living room” – a sixth was controlled by the breaker marked “hallway / den”. Also, when we contracted to remodel the kitchen, we assumed responsibility for tearing out the old kitchen cabinets and sofits that ran from the top of the cabinet to the ceiling. As I tore out the cabinets and sofits, I discovered that rather than run the extra foot of wire it would have taken to mount the wire flush inside the 2×4 framing, the original electrician had run the wire diagonally across the space behind where the sofits made a corner – presumably because that would have taken 5 minutes extra effort to notch the 2×4 framing so the wiring would be flush behind any walls. The plumbing layout also showed signs of slipshod planning and let’s get ‘er done and get out of here execution, though the net result was more inconvenience than potential disaster; for example, when the kitchen drain clogged up somewhere deep inside the pipe, I literally had to go prospecting in the front yard to find the buried (and undocumented) location of the cleanout. And the upstairs guest bathtup drainpipe was run via a route that had inadequate drop (and diameter pipe) to ever drain better than very slowly, though it would drain within 10 minutes or so of a bath or shower.

    Our present house is far-better built in many ways as a higher-end spec home built for the 1993 Raleigh Parade of Homes (we’re the second owners of this house as well) – and the only real problems we’ve experienced has been with the only corner the original builder cut, with the masonite-like exterior siding that is prone to excessive deterioration (which we’ve progressively been replacing by something identical in appearance when painted, but which is actually made of a concrete-like material rather than pressed fiberboard. But on the upside, when we switched to ATT for televisiion and internet service, the installer found that the original land-line phone wiring in the house was of a suitable grade to be re-purposed for Cat-5 Ethernet without any change except to the outlet connections, and though doing so reduced the available land-line outlets to a single one (from about seven or eight throughout the house) – that’s obsolete as any sort of problematic issue and has enabled us to not only put the TV DVR box upstairs in the bonus room at the diagonally complete opposite end of the house from where the line from the street into the house (and interface box) is, but to put a second N-router up in the bonus room so that nowhere in the house is there less than five (or a strong four) bars of wireless signal strength.

    A well-built, well-designed house whose original contractors cut no shoddy corners is a wonderful thing to own; a tract house slapped together by contractors in a hurry to get ‘er done can be a real PITA over its 40 to 100 year lifespan.

  135. 135
    Woodrowfan says:

    FYI, if they find any old cans or bottles (especially alcoholic beverages) in the walls, don;t just pitch them! In good shape they are worth money to collectors. A buddy of mine found two 1930s beer cans in his kitchen wall, probably from some worker’s lunch break in 1935, and sold them for enough money to cover the price of his new fridge and stove..

  136. 136
    raven says:

    If dreams were thunder
    And lightning was desire
    This old house would’ve burned down
    A long time ago

  137. 137
    tybee says:

    @Tom Levenson:


  138. 138

    @tybee: yup. For reelz. Narratedy first film, too.

  139. 139
    Origuy says:

    @Trollhattan: My 1984 condo has popcorn ceilings. They don’t do shit for acoustics. Asbestos was banned in 1978, but the law allowed existing stocks to be used up, so who knows what I have. I probably should have it tested and removed.

  140. 140
    Kayla Rudbek says:

    @PurpleGirl: @PurpleGirl: @PurpleGirl: @Trollhattan: @PurpleGirl: @PurpleGirl: @PurpleGirl: @Karen in GA:

    Do NOT do an accent wall if you plan on selling the house any time within the next 10+ years and getting a good price for it. We got a deal on our house because the owner painted it with accent walls in the dining area and both bedrooms. When I showed the pictures to one of my colleagues, he described it as “technicolor vomit.”

  141. 141
    Princess says:

    Three months? Ha, ha, ha; Tom, you’re funny.

  142. 142
    Ruckus says:

    I remodeled the entire downstairs of a 1700sq ft house in 3 months but that was working every day. But it included moving load bearing walls, a to the studs bathroom renovation, building an island for the kitchen and reflooring and painting the entire house. Pros that couldn’t do one room in 8 months shouldn’t be able to call themselves that.

  143. 143
    Ruckus says:

    @Betty Cracker:
    It’s a bit of a pain to scrap off the popcorn but other than being a bit dirty not a big deal. But that’s not the hard part. Most of the reason the popcorn is used in the first place is the ceiling drywall doesn’t have to be spackled, the popcorn masks all the dips, bad match lines, etc, etc.
    IOW I’ve done a 350 sq ft room and removing the popcorn took about a day. Fixing the crappy plastering job took 4, including drying time. It looked normal with the popcorn, it looked like shit without it.

  144. 144
    ET says:

    I assume the electrician cried seeing this hot mess. Because honestly this is scary but also because it meant more work for him.

  145. 145
    Older says:

    That photo is remarkable. I can’t even imagine what that bunch of spaghetti wires was originally meant to do. I’m old, but even so, my knowledge only goes back as far as knob and tube. (Which is still code if it was done correctly in the first place.)

    The photo has caused me to re-evaluate the work of “The Little Old Man” who owned my house before me. He replaced a lot of the knob and tube with up-to-date Romex, but his standards were peculiar. To say the least. I have cursed his name for using 3 inch junction boxes instead of 4 inchers, for running more than one circuit through a single box, for cross-connecting two circuits run through the same box.

    But he never left random bundles of wires wadded up inside the walls, and he did not plug dis-used gas lines with caulk. Perhaps he never had occasion to work on the gas lines.

    We do know he was little (if you were wondering) because where he moved walls or replaced doors, he put in doors that were not even 6 feet tall. They have all but one been replaced. I like to save a bit of old stuff just for fun when updating things. One of the things I left was a circuit of knob and tube which had only a couple of lights on it, and I put a tiny trap door in the floor over it, so I could show it to people sometimes.

  146. 146

    How has Cthulhu reacted to your desecration of his shrine?


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